Longer Reads

Holy Mackerel! The Amazing Benefits of Fish Oil

As we approach the new year and start to think about resolutions, very often “losing weight” or “getting healthier” top our lists. That’s why I wanted to post about fish oil, since it can help you do both!

It’s quite possibly my favorite supplement of all time. Why’s that? Let me count the reasons…Here are just a few of the benefits you can get from taking fish oil daily:

1) Lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the body

2) Stopping the buildup of fatty deposits (triglycerides) in the arteries

3) Increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels

4) Reduced inflammation in the blood

5) Uplifted mood (fish oil is used to treat depression)

6) Helps treat skin disorders, such as eczema

7) Used as a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

8) Reduced pain (from arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc)

9) Assists in weight loss

10) Helps prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Truly, I could go on and on with everything this wonder oil does for us. Studies have been done that show that fish oil can relieve asthma, prevent heart attacks, and positively alter behavior in children with ADHD. It’s recommended for diabetics, cancer patients, those suffering with Multiple Sclerosis, and pretty much anyone who wants to increase their brain health, heart health, maintain a good weight, and be in a good mood!

So what exactly is fish oil, and what makes it so good for us?

Fish oil is harvested from cold-water fish, including mackerel, tuna, salmon, cod and others. By now you’re probably familiar with the buzz word “Omega 3 fatty acids,” and fish oil contains two of the most important and easily absorbed Omega 3 fatty acids out there: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid  (DHA).

As Dr. Andrew Weil wrote for Time Magazine,
“EPA and DHA are very important for normal brain development, nervous system function, and eyesight. These two fatty acids are also thought to be protective of the body, reducing the risk of developing arthritis, high blood pressure, some cancers, and heart disease. Most omega-3 research has focused on the relationship these fats have with heart disease. According to the American Dietetic Association, omega-3 fatty acids “are believed to contribute to an overall vascular environment less prone to occlusion by atherosclerotic plaques.”

Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot create without first obtaining them from food.  Mothers used to regularly give their kids cod liver oil, but these days, that tradition is long-forgotten. Most Americans do not get enough of these essential fatty acids in their diet.

There are few dietary sources of EPA and DHA other than oily fish. Omega-3-fortified eggs contain only small amounts, and walnuts and flaxseed don’t provide EPA and DHA but a different Omega-3 entirely (alpha-linolenic acid). Another benefit of taking a fish oil supplement is that unlike fish that you buy at the store, the oil has been purified of mercury and other toxins.

There currently is no recommended daily allowance for fish oil pills, so most people don’t have a clue how much they should be taking. Dr. Barry Sears recommends the following amounts:

2 ½ grams per day if you’re healthy

5 grams per day if you suffer from diabetes, obesity, or coronary heart disease

7.5 grams per day if you have cancer or extreme pain

10 grams per day or MORE if you suffer from a neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis.

Since it isn’t a very regulated business yet, it can be hard to know the quality of the fish oil that you’re taking. And quality is very important when it comes to fish oil, since you really want to be sure that the mercury and other toxins have been purified. One brand I use and trust is Metagenics (which can be ordered online). Two other trustworthy brands are Nordic Naturals or Carlson’s,  which can be ordered online or found in most health food or vitamin stores.

Until recently, there wasn’t a vegetarian source rich in both EPA and DHA. Now there’s a new product on the market called “V-Pure” which takes the algae that the fish eat (that is high in EPA and DHA) and puts it in pill form. It is definitely a great option for people who do not eat fish. I have only seen it available online so far.